Teams and teamwork are ever more critical in today’s organizations. Effective teams are central to higher customer service, continuously increasing quality, increased productivity, and greater innovation. Strong and effective teams also increase engagement, development, and retention.

Lots of managers fall in these common traps when trying to increase teamwork and build more effective teams:

  • What the Top Orders the Middle to do for the Bottom – one of the key factors determining the skills of supervisors and managers are the team leadership skills of senior management.  Accustomed to using their technical or management system skills, most senior managers’ team skills are — to put it gently — rusty. Numerous organizations have proven that developing the skills of executives in this vital area has a profound and lasting impact on how quickly and effectively the rest of the organization follows suit.
  • Confusing Structure and Skills – bringing groups of people together and calling them a team doesn’t make them one. Far too many groups are a loose collection of individuals, not a team. Extensive and continuous team skill development is needed. Form follows function. Teaching people how to make teams work (as leaders or members) is critical to increased effectiveness and teamwork.
  • Meeting Madness – far too many organizations accept poorly run meetings as normal. People arrive late, agendas and ground rules don’t exist or are ignored, participants pay more attention to their Blackberries than the meeting, conflicts turn personal or are avoided, a few people hog all the air time, decisions aren’t made, summarized, or documented, or discussions go off track.
  • Reverting Under Pressure – the truest test of teamwork, engagement, and empowerment is when the crunch is on. If team leaders revert to command and control management, their credibility – and teamwork – may be shot. That doesn’t mean avoiding the tough decisions that go against popular opinion. People want decisive and strong management — when it’s called for. But how position power is used makes all the difference in the world. As much as possible, strong team leaders gather broad input and give people a chance to have their say. Once they made a tough or unpopular decision, he or she reiterates the reasons for it and solicits the support of others.
  • A Weak Management Team – if you’re part of a management team that wants to see stronger team effectiveness from others in your organization – get your own house in order first. It’s amazing how many managers run around spouting off about the need for teamwork when their own team doesn’t pull together. Don’t be hypocritical. Your people aren’t blind. How do you know what the perception of your management team’s effectiveness is?

How are your team member or leadership skills? Are you helping to build stronger teams or allowing teamwork to drift? If you’d like to refocus your team skills, visit our Team Building articles section for tips, techniques, and examples of this vital component of peak performance.